Lakers’ LeBron James ‘happy as hell’ for Magic guard Markelle Fultz
LOS ANGELES – The lengthy win streak is now officially over for the Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron James and company fell in a 119-118 thriller to the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night at Staples Center, ending the nine-game streak before the team’s five-game road trip on the East Coast.
After erasing the Magic’s enormous lead (21) in the third quarter, the Lakers seemed to be back on track and ready to notch their 10th straight win. However, Aaron Gordon and Markelle Fultz continued to be a problem, with some jaw-dropping dunks from the high-flyer and some clutch buckets from the former No. 1 pick.
Fultz, who has had a rough time getting his career going in the NBA, drew high praise from James after the game.
“Confidence,” James on what he sees in Fultz. “Confidence and opportunity. They’re confident in him. He’s confident in himself, and he’s given the opportunity to go out and play the game how he grew up playing. I think everything else will take care of itself.
“I’ve been supportive of him ever since he was in high school; came through as a rookie in Philly. Been supportive through his situation and still is to this day. I’m happy as hell for him.”
The 21-year-old guard recorded his second career triple-double on Wednesday night and was the catalyst for the Magic in their win over LeBron’s Lakers. Fultz finished with 21 points, matched a career-high 10 assists, and set a career-high with 11 rebounds.
“It’s big,” Fultz said on the win against LeBron. “It’s what I dreamed of. It’s why I work every day, for these big moments like this. It was good. It was fun. I’ve been in a couple close games recently. I learned from my mistakes. It was fun to be out there down the stretch like that.”
Although it took longer than expected for Fultz to show signs of a player taken at the top of the NBA Draft, he seems to be coming into his own with the Magic after a disappointing stint with the Philadelphia 76ers. Fultz talked about proving his doubters wrong after the win over the Lakers.
“I think it just shows that I’m a No. 1 pick,” Fultz said. “I let my game do the talking. I don’t have anything to say for the people who doubted me, but you just look at the stats. The numbers don’t lie, so I’m just having fun, you know. It’s not really about them, it’s about this team and just being on the floor.”
As for the Lakers, James and company will hit the road for a tough stretch away from Staples Center in which they’ll face the Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, and 76ers. Los Angeles remains without Anthony Davis as it embarks on this five-game road trip, but his return could happen sooner rather than later. The team isn’t rushing him back as he has missed four straight games now.